Swine flu virus
Swine flu virusIsrael News Photo: (file)

Two more cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus were confirmed this week in Israel, bringing the total number to 10 since the pandemic began in April. All the patients have been released from the hospital since, except for one.

A 24-year-old woman who had returned from a visit to the United States was diagnosed with the disease on Tuesday.  A 42-year-old man was diagnosed Monday, also after having returned from the U.S.

Israeli health officials said Wednesday that three more citizens may also have contracted the H1N1 virus after returning from the U.S., including a four-month old baby, a 20-year old, and a 31-year old man.

A special clinic has been set up at Ben Gurion International Airport to screen incoming travelers who exhibit flu-like symptoms or who report having been exposed to the virus within the past seven days.

NY Death Toll Climbs to Four

The virus is meanwhile continuing to claim lives and close classes in New York.

The death toll in the Big Apple this week climbed to four, according to city Health Commissioner Thomas Friedan, who was recently tapped by the Obama administration to become the new head of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The health commissioner told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that two more people had died of the H1N1 virus since the weekend, but provided few other details. On Sunday, a Queens woman in her 50's also succumbed. The city's first victim was a Jewish vice principal at a Queens middle school, 55-year-old Mitchell Weiner.

Two More Brooklyn Yeshivas Close

Jewish schools in the city are responding to the threat by issuing health alerts to their parent bodies, and an increasing number are cancelling classes as well.

The Bais Yaakov of Boro Park yeshiva for girls on Wednesday became the sixth Jewish school in Brooklyn to close, albeit for one day, for this reason. A yeshiva in Williamsburg has closed as well. The administrations of both emphasized the measure was taken as a precaution only, but it was not clear whether any of the students had been diagnosed with the virus. Neither school could be reached for comment. 

At least four boys' and girls' yeshivas in the Flatbush neighborhood also cancelled classes, although one of the four later reopened after deciding the epidemic "could not be contained" by closing the school.

The yeshivas took advantage of the fact that this is a shortened holiday week which left only Tuesday and Wednesday for class time, having begun late due to the extended American Memorial Day weekend and ending early due to the upcoming Shavuot holiday. The Jewish "Festival of Weeks" begins Thursday at sundown and in the Diaspora lasts until Saturday night.

U.S. Most Severely Affected

According to an update by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, 46 countries have officially reported 12,954 laboratory-confirmed cases of the (A)H1N1 infection, including 92 deaths.

The highest number of deaths -- 80 -- was reported in Mexico, the epicenter of the pandemic, followed by the United States, which reported that 10 people had died of the illness.

The U.S., however, had the highest number of people sick with the infection -- 6,764 -- followed by Mexico, which reported that 4,174 people had come down with the virus. Canada was the third-most affected, with 921 people reported sick, and one person who had died of the virus.